Barrow, is the farthest-north community in the U.S. // © 2017 Getty Images
Feature image (above): Don’t miss a photo op of Barrow Whale Bone Arch. // © 2017 Getty Images
Utqiagvik, Alaska, known more commonly as Barrow, is the farthest-north community in the U.S. and a “fringe destination” in Alaska tourism. From late November until late January, visitors come to this city, the largest in the North Slope Borough, to bask in civil twilight — an eerie glow that is a shade away from total darkness.
Top of the World Hotel offers a base camp for exploration in Barrow, where midwinter temperatures average 20 degrees below zero. Property amenities include Wi-Fi access, an ATM, a free airport shuttle, a fitness center and on-site Niggivikput restaurant, which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. When booking clients, request a room with a view of the frozen Chukchi Sea for a vista of the most-northern boundary of human survival. The barren winter shoreline is a sight as beautiful as it is hostile.
In winter, the hotel offers two-hour tours of the area in heated vans. These are narrated by a local, who explains how village residents adapt to the long months of cold and darkness. Weather-hardened clients can walk the tour route on their own to photograph the Barrow Whale Bone Arch or view the aurora borealis, which takes on a different look when it flickers above the sea ice.
Inupiat Heritage Center offers an impressive look at the historical and cultural heritage of the local Inupiat people, with museum-quality displays of bone tools, clothing and oil lamps. There is also a gift shop selling items such as authentic ivory and baleen carvings and winter fur hats, mittens and parkas. Throughout the winter months, numerous events include fur-sewing and garment-making demonstrations, Inupiat dances and educational classes.